Caffeine

I am just coming down from that finals rush that us university students are all so accustomed to. Those long nights of studying and early mornings to keep studying – it gets tiring. A lot of students have a particular molecule to thank for getting them through those long days: caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, or energy drinks, students can be seen anywhere on campus chugging down these caffeinated substances. But how does this particular substance work to keep the students active and awake?

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a purine alkaloid, which is a particular type of chemical compound. It is found organically in Coffea arabica and Camellia sinsensis.

Coffea arabicaCamellia sinsensis

Coffea arabica is the source of coffee, while Camellia sinsensis is the source of tea.

How does caffeine affect our systems?

Caffeine can be completely absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within 45 minutes, and it takes around 3 to 4 hours just to remove half of the consumed caffeine from your system.

Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system (CNS), which is composed of our brain and spinal cord. By stimulating the CNS, the caffeine molecules fight against drowsiness and helps keep you alert. It does all of this by preventing a nucleoside, named adenosine (which is found in our DNA!), from binding to its receptors in the brain.

Adenosine usually suppresses the CNS when it binds to its receptors; this leads to general drowsiness. When caffeine binds these receptors, adenosine can no longer interact with the brain receptors which leads to a decrease in drowsiness (or increase in alertness!). Another result of caffeine binding these receptors is the stimulation of other neurotransmitters that also lead to an increase in your ability to concentrate and stay awake. These neurotransmitters include: norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin (which will be explored later).

An interesting fact about caffeine is that its half life,which is the time it takes to remove half of the consumed substance from your system, can be shortened by one’s smoking. So if you’re smoking, you’re going to need more caffeine than the average person to get relatively the same jolt of energy.

And that’s a brief summary of caffeine and its effects! Now you know how exactly caffeine works to become your savior through those long nights. Thanks caffeine, on behalf of all of us sleep-deprived students.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Last week, we talked about breast cancer and how you can take certain steps to be aware of your breast health.
This week, we’ll look at a list of risk factors that have been linked to the development of breast cancer. By knowing these risk factors ahead of time, we can help in reducing our risk of breast cancer.
Risk factors
Risk factors increase one’s chances of developing breast cancer. Studies that have looked for risk factors look for things that are common in people who develop breast cancer than in others. You should know thought that risk factors don’t always act at the same magnitude, so take this with a grain of salt. Risk factors don’t always lead to the disease, so please don’t create a checklist and start to freak out. It’ll really help no one.
Luckily, some risk factors are modifiable so you do have some control over your health. Others aren’t as easy to hear about, as they might have to do with your genes, or other uncontrollable traits.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

  • Body weight
  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol use
    • is a known carcinogen (cancer-inducing agent).
    • Depends on how much you drink and how often
  • Smoking
  • Hormone replacement therapy and contraceptives
    • Estrogen and progesterones can sometimes increase our risk of breast cancer
    • Synthetic hormones can also increase this risk
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
    • Having gone through pregnancy and breastfeeding can actually lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Now, I’m not saying “Go make babies now!”. But, I mean, babies are cute…
    • Having a child after the age of 35 may bring about a slight increase of risk, much like not having a child at all (This is just for you, ladies. Men, your breasts don’t care if you have kids or not)
  • Radiation exposure

Non- modifiable Risk factors

  • Gender and age
    • Women have a greater risk than men because of those specialized lobules they have.
    • Risk increases as you age
  • History of cancer (family or personal)
  • Early menstruation/late menopause
  • Breast density or conditions
  • BRCA gene mutations

Factors that aren’t risk factors

  • Deodorants or antiperspirants
  • Bras
  • Breast Implants
  • Stress
  • Abortion

Now remember, risk factors don’t always lead to the disease but it’s always good to look after yourself! So take care, know your body and stay healthy 🙂

References

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. 2013. Breast Cancer Risk Factors. CBCF.orghttp://www.cbcf.org/central/AboutBreastHealth/PreventionRiskReduction/risk_factors/Pages/default.aspx. November 7, 2013.

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